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Positive results in deep-brain stimulation trial for epilepsy

Deep-brain stimulation - implantation and activation of a device that sends electronic pulses to targeted brain regions - has already proved helpful for Parkinson's Disease.

Now a newly published study led by Stanford's Bob Fisher, MD, PhD, who has been researching deep-brain stimulation for decades, concludes that it also substantially reduces seizure rates in people who for whom anti-seizure drugs don't work:

"There's a false assumption out there that epilepsy is a 'solved problem,' but it's not," Fisher said. "Treatment failure among one-third of people with such a highly prevalent disease leaves a large number of people in great need of something better."

Subjects in the study had symptoms similar to those defining the majority of epilepsy patients, but got no benefit from at least three medications and, in many cases, surgery. A device was surgically inserted under the skin of each participant's chest wall, and electrical leads from the devices were threaded under the skin up the neck, behind the ear and through the skull to the thalamus, a relay station that lies deep within the brain.

Three months later, patients receiving stimulation were experiencing, on average, 40 percent fewer seizures then at the start of the study. What's more, this effect persisted. At two years, the reduction was 41 percent, and at three years 56 percent.

On Friday March 12, an FDA advisory panel recommended the procedure's approval.

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